Idle Eye 137 : The Worst Drink of the Day

I hate tea. Quite why it has been adopted as the nation’s drink of choice is totally beyond me, seeing as pretty much anything else that’s liquid and stays down would be infinitely preferable. Let’s not beat about the bush: In its raw state, it looks (and tastes) as if it has been strained though your grandmother’s underpants. Then you add milk (as if that’s going to help), and when it’s made, perfectly normal people from right across the class spectrum make weird, contented sighs over the duration of its consumption as if to say that life, up until this point, has been a bit much. “Best drink of the day”, they go. Utter balls! Stick around with me & I’ll show you a belter come 6pm.

Three drinks that are better than tea. Fact!

  1. New Zealand Marlborough Pinot Noir
  2. Your own sick
  3. Someone else’s sick

You know, the bit that gets me is when they say “Ooh, I’m dying for a cuppa.” I could understand it if they were after a triple shot of wormwood-laden absinthe with a vermouth chaser, but tea? Really? It’s just so…lame! So, why exactly have we embraced this muck to our collective bosom? Well, as with most things, it’s a long story which I shall attempt to condense for you here. If you want proper facts, there’s always Wikipedia:

  1. Chinese accidentally discover it ages ago
  2. Portuguese nick it from Chinese
  3. Dutch nick it from Portuguese
  4. Brits nick it from Dutch
  5. It’s British. No argument. Like curry

The rest is history. There’s a bit of faffing about with taxes and the East India Company, but for the most part we stuck our flag right there in the middle of the pot and pretended to like the stuff. I blame that Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II, who made it fashionable and got hooked on it, dozy mare. A bit like Diana and marital infidelity, and look how that’s taken off. Only problem was, the proles had gotten a taste for it as well, and curiously, it was offered as an alternative to the demon grog at temperance meetings. Now, I’ve never attended a temperance meeting (probably not for me), but I’d imagine that tea really isn’t going to cut the mustard when you’re bug-eyed, frothing at the gills & threatening violence to anyone in the vicinity without an almost full bottle of pinot to hand. But what do I know?

And so to the present. I concede I must kowtow to the social mores of our time if I wish to succeed in my chosen field, but I shall do so on my own terms. A short cup of coffee, brutally strong and infused with one of those flavoured syrups, is more than enough to see off the competition. Preferably in sync with a couple of fags. And to those who see this as a crass invasion of tradition, hear ye:

“We do not have to accept the world as we find it” – Ed Miliband

Idle Eye 84 : The Carb Uncle

One of the downsides of owning a classic car is that people will insist on talking to you about it. Whether you’re underneath it, inside it or getting out, invariably you will be approached by an enthusiastic beardy type with battered NHS glasses, aching for a lengthy chat about horsepower, turning circles & the good old days when they made things proper. It goes with the territory. And for reasons completely beyond me, there is an unspoken presumption that you care as deeply about engines and distributors and carburettors and all the other stuff that gets greasy every time you look at it and ruins your good trousers because you thought you’d just have a quick tinker but it’s never quite that simple is it, as they do.

You can see them approaching a mile off, all dewey-eyed, drooling and preparing for their inevitable opening gambit:

Carb Uncle:  Used to have one of them meself, mate. First car, she was. Went like a rocket. And you could turn her on a sixpence. Lovely motor. Had her long?

Me:  About ten years.

Carb Uncle:  We got ours in…er…when did we get ours, Joyce?

Joyce:  1967. Our honeymoon.

Carb Uncle:  That’s right! ‘67 it was. Took her down the Costa del Sol, never had no trouble. Well, I say no trouble but you know what it’s like. Like to play up sometimes, don’t they? But the beauty of the old ‘uns is you can do the work yourself, right? Flip up the bonnet, sit on the wheel & get stuck in. Not like your modern rubbish. First sign of trouble & it’s all Computer says No! No way José! Tell you what, mate: I’d give ten of any car on the road right now for one of those. ‘Cos they made them proper back then. Right, Joyce?

Joyce:  Yes, dear.

Carb Uncle:  Lovely engines’n’all. Yours a two litre?

Me:  Yes.

Carb Uncle:  Twin carbs?

Me:  Yes.

Carb Uncle:  Strombergs?

Me:  Yes.

Carb Uncle:  Your Stromberg was the king of carbs, make no mistake. Tune ‘em to within an inch of their life, I should coco. Mind you, they couldn’t half give you strife on the long haul. Spent many an hour on the hard shoulder with a spanner or two in the jacksie pocket, ain’t that the truth, Joyce?

Joyce:  Yes, dear.

Back in the day, I learned to actively engage with these people. How I would laugh at the absurdities of modern vehicles. How I pretended to yearn for the golden era of motoring, when one could take to the open road in a car proudly manufactured in Great Britain, safe in the knowledge that it was almost certainly the envy of the developed world. But these days, I’m afraid I really couldn’t give a toss. Because if I give Carb Uncle the kind of time he’s after, I’ll never get the bloody thing sorted. And I’m off to France next week. So please, could you just piss off?